Podcast 251: Try the “Eight Stones Method”; Are You on Team “You Do You” or Team “Let’s All Join In”; and the Fun of Holiday Movies.

Try This at Home

Try the “Eight Stones method.”

This was suggested to us by Melissa Errico. I met Melissa years ago, back in college, because I was friends with her brother Mike Errico who’s also a great musician, and she came to visit.

Now she’s a Tony-Award nominated actor, singer, and writer. She’s starred on Broadway in roles like Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, Sharon in Finian’s Rainbow (I saw that performance), she’s on TV—for instance, recently on Billions—she’s had a one-woman show, she writes great pieces for the New York Times! Her most recent project is Legrand Affair (Deluxe Edition)  which just came out. Melissa often collaborated with great French composer Michel Legrand. When he died in January 2019, she decided to re-release her album Legrand Affair with 12 bonus tracks—including four new songs.

As her bio makes obvious, Melissa is creative and productive in many arenas, and she has a great approach that she calls the “Eight Stones Method,” originally devised by the artist Richard Avedon, via the writer Adam Gopnik.

You take eight stones and line them up on your desk, and under each stone, you put a project related to your own creative and professional life.  As something gets done, something else replaces it under the stone. This approach helps us stay focused on many projects simultaneously, helps prevent us from getting overly invested in one project, breaks the hierarchy, and keeps us looking forward. By making the projects visible, they seem more real. Melissa mentions writing a piece for the New York TimesI’m 46. Is That Too Old to Play the Ingenue? 

Happiness Hack

Choose a holiday movie.

Many people watch The Sound of Music. Growing up, in our family, we loved watching Miracle on 34th Street, but we didn’t do it as an “official” movie. Many people watch Hallmark movies—Elizabeth and I want to watch Sense, Sensibility & Snowmen, written by Elizabeth’s friend, the bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz.

Know Yourself Better

When it comes to food, are you Team You do you” or “Let’s all join in? We’ve talked a lot about the debate around “food-pushing,” so feel free to skip this section if you’re tired of that subject! I had a big revelation that brought me a lot of clarity and calm: people bring two different perspectives to this issue. People who believe “you do you” see things differently from the people who believe “Let’s all join in.”

Identifying these two philosophies helped me see that no one is right;  both camps represent important values.

Elizabeth’s Demerit

She hasn’t updated her software “Final Draft,” which is essential to her work as a TV writer. 

Gretchen’s Gold Star

I give a gold star to “Flavor University” at FONA International in Geneva, Illinois. It’s a terrific short course about the workings of the flavor industry.

I read about this program in a fascinating book, Flavor: The Science of Our Most Neglected Sense by Bob Holmes.

Bonus: If you want to watch the scene from The Miracle on 34th Street that we play at the end of the show, when Kris Kringle talks to the little Dutch girl, it’s here.


  • Due to popular demand, I created a PDF that includes all the “Try This at Home” ideas from every episode. I update it a few times a year. You can download it for free here.
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